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Why are luxury brands so discreet about their sustainable commitments?

Most major groups in the beauty and perfume industry have long implemented social and environmental responsibility policies and actions on different levels. As they believe they need to be sustainable to last, many of them introduced ethics and eco-design principles for themselves and their suppliers. And yet, they do not put forward this exemplary strategy, or very little. Gildas Bonnel, President of the Sidièse agency specialized in responsible communication and consultant for Guerlain, explains the challenges behind speaking up about these issues for Premium Beauty News.

Gildas Bonnel, Sidièse

Gildas Bonnel, Sidièse

Premium Beauty News - Why do the luxury brands that have long implemented a CSR strategy with tangible actions and results put so little emphasis on it for their consumers?

Gildas Bonnel - That is what we, at the agency, call ‘green hiding’. It should be understood that in a few sectors, and it is particularly true for luxury, companies would like to avoid the scourge of criticism. For communicators, the most widely shared feeling is that there are more attacks to be feared than benefits to be expected when you put forward this progressive approach. That being said, things are changing.

A new offering is arriving, in particular on the beauty market. The new value proposal with simpler ranges and products and the strong commitment to social and environmental issues result in a few Maisons and major brands fearing they might look old hat and miss a powerful societal trend.

That is why I give the following advice: when a company is ready, when there is actual evidence of the management, objectives, and roadmap to reduce social and environmental impacts, I am the first to recommend going for it. I have much encouraged Maison Guerlain to communicate on their sustainable development policy, because there is a real expectation among the different publics. In addition, communication puts companies in tension. When you communicate, you get involved. You cannot go back, you can only go forward and meet your own challenges. It is always risky to make changes or reforms. What was done by Guerlain for Orchidée Impériale – with a 40% packaging volume and weight reduction – was really brave. Innovation and communication paid off and customers were convinced by the proposal: they did not turn their backs on the product, quite the contrary.

Communication is what helps lead the way and get everyone involved, both employees and customers.

Premium Beauty News - How can you speak up on these issues when you are a prestigious historic brand?

Gildas Bonnel - For us, these are issues we should discreetly talk about with customers and opinion leaders, rather than creating whole ad campaigns. It is a ‘long term’ strategy based on more influence, encounters, and interventions of the CEO.

It corresponds to luxury companies perfectly well. They do not want to be ostentatious and preach doctrines: they prefer to work on these issues in depth with those that make the opinion.

Premium Beauty News - Is it not dangerous to play this long-term card when it all goes so fast?

Gildas Bonnel - Not if you work on the substance… if, meanwhile, the company is on a war footing and, like Guerlain, if it is building up a strategy and sincere and relevant communication elements.

Premium Beauty News - Should these big luxury names not set the example?

Gildas Bonnel - There is a great ambivalence on the market, which is why it can be so difficult for brands to work out these transitions.

As can be seen in their declarations, consumers are ready for many changes, but at the same time, they do not want to be rushed, even the most involved. So, it is important to take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves.

However, these companies should think about more disruptive offerings, as Guerlain did by incubating with ethic brand Cha Ling. The thread is thin, it is all about balance and will.

Interview by Kristel Milet

© 2018 - Premium Beauty News - www.premiumbeautynews.com
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